When metal clusters meet carbon cages: endohedral clusterfullerenes
Fullerenes have the characteristic of a hollow interior, and this unique feature triggers intuitive inspiration to entrap atoms, ions or clusters inside the carbon cage in the form of endohedral fullerenes. In particular, upon entrapping an otherwise unstable metal cluster into a carbon cage, the so-called endohedral clusterfullerenes fulfil the mutual stabilization of the inner metal cluster and the outer fullerene cage with a specific isomeric structure which is often unstable as an empty fullerene. A variety of metal clusters have been reported to form endohedral clusterfullerenes, including metal nitrides, carbides, oxides, sulfides, cyanides and so on, making endohedral clusterfullerenes the most variable and intriguing branch of endohedral fullerenes. In this review article, we present an exhaustive review on all types of endohedral clusterfullerenes reported to date, including their discoveries, syntheses, separations, molecular structures and properties as well as their potential applications in versatile fields such as biomedicine, energy conversion, and so on. At the end, we present an outlook on the prospect of endohedral clusterfullerenes.